Evaluating the recovery potential of injured cells of Listeria innocua under product temperature-abuse conditions and passage through simulated gastrointestinal fluids.

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Journal of Dairy Science










injured cells, ice cream, recovery, Listeria


Ice cream handling and serving conditions on the consumer side may result in temperature abuse before consumption. Under some extreme conditions, even the sporadic presence of injured bacterial cells might pose a health risk due to the possibility of recovery of those cells. We conducted this investigation to evaluate the potential of injured cells of Listeria innocua to recover under ice cream temperature abuse conditions and on exposure to simulated gastrointestinal (GI) fluids. Ice cream mix samples (42% total solids), spiked with 4 log10 cfu/g of Listeria innocua, were thermally treated at 69°C for 30 min. Potential heat-injured cells were recovered in buffered Listeria broth (BLEB), followed by isolation on Listeria-specific modified Oxford agar (MOX). The ice cream mix samples, containing potentially injured cells of Listeria innocua, were followed through overnight aging (7°C), freezing (−3.3°C), and overnight hardening (−40°C) steps to obtain the final ice cream samples. To simulate temperature abuse conditions, the samples were held for 12 h at 4.4°C, followed by 30 min at room temperature (22°C); this treatment was considered the first cycle of temperature abuse. To generate a worst-case scenario, the samples were exposed to 3 such consecutive temperature abuse cycles. At the end of each cycle, direct plating was done on MOX to recover viable cells, and BLEB enrichment verified the presence of potential injured cells. In addition, the ice cream samples, containing potential injured cells, were passed through simulated GI fluids. As a first step, samples were mixed (1:1) with simulated gastric fluids (pH 1.0 and 2.0 before mixing) and held at 37°C in a shaker incubator. Samples drawn at 15, 30, and 60 min were analyzed for viable and potential injured cells. To study the effect of sequential transit through simulated intestinal fluid, a mixture of ice cream and gastric fluid (1:1) from the gastric fluid experiment above was added to simulated intestinal fluid (pH 6.8) and held at 37°C. Samples were analyzed at 30 and 360 min for viable and potential injured cells. Three trials were conducted and the samples collected in duplicates. The temperature abuse or GI fluid exposure studies did not result in the recovery of potential injured cells of Listeria innocua in the ice cream samples under the conditions tested. Exposure to gastric fluids, however, did not eliminate the potential injured cells. Further studies are necessary to understand the exact risk implications of these findings.

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